We understand that you’re one of those people who, in a car, needs to have real leather upholstery, tray tables that fold down, a refrigerator, a butler to communicate with back seat passengers, or whatever else you can think of.
Luxury is what we're talking about, and unfortunately all of the best (“best”=most expensive) luxury cars rival yachts except on land, like a Rolls Royce or a Bentley, in other words are hardly conducive to modest garage space. They’re also horrendously expensive. Luckily there are some luxurious vehicles on the smaller side, and guess what? They won’t cost you a house and family.
Luxury cars are chock-full of amenities like 100-way adjustable seats and built-in massagers, which certainly help to cultivate an environment rich with comfort and relaxation. However there’s more to a luxury car than that. You want smooth acceleration, soft suspension, and light steering. The cars on our list should uphold those guidelines.
We obtained our prices from KBB for vehicles in excellent condition with average annual mileage. Bear in mind that values will vary based on the location, condition and mileage of the vehicle.
Here are the best small used luxury cars:
To be fair, the first car on our list isn’t exactly going to have the lightest steering, or even the smoothest acceleration. This particular Mercedes lacks the V8 response in other models, but what the Mercedes CLA does well is provide is some of the softest suspension you’ll ever feel in a car, and the sense of being bolted to the ground.
The CLA feels glued to the road, despite it’s curb weight floating near 3,200 pounds, which is not a lot for a luxury car. Something unique to the CLA is its FWD setup, and the fact that it gets about 36 MPG on the highway.
Considerably more expensive than the Mercedes CLA is the Lexus IS. Beyond the normal luxurious stylings and features of the interior, Lexus has gone a step further and crafted the IS as a sport-luxury vehicle.
It has sharp steering, somewhat tighter suspension, and great acceleration out of both engine choices, those being a turbocharged inline-four cylinder and a V6. Another big difference between the Lexus and the Mercedes is reliability. The Lexus IS is Toyota-powered, which means in theory it should outlast cockroaches and Keith Richards.
Classified as a compact car, BMW’s 2 Series rolled onto North American show room floors just a few short years ago. It’s smaller, not much lighter, but is sportier than a 3-series especially with its twin scroll turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six, making more than 300 horsepower.
Like any other BMW the M235i is nimble, has some heavenly balance between stiff and soft suspension, and shifts as smooth as slicing room-temperature butter. Interior-wise BMW tends to have slightly harder materials including its leather selection, however it still provides a solid construction that feels indestructible.
With this luxury sedan Infiniti is taking a step forward into complete luxury, as is evidenced by the lack of a manual transmission. Most importantly though, the Infiniti Q50 is meant to take on BMW and Audi, and aims to do so with a 400 horsepower twin-turbocharged V6, next to its other 2.0-liter turbo inline-four option.
The Q50 offers stellar handling and numerous safety features, some of which it has been reported have a tendency to be a bit too invasive. Under the umbrella of Nissan, Infiniti’s Q50 centers the driving experience around the driver, crowding them with the majority of controls, which makes for a more isolated driving experience. That being said, the Q50 does what it sets out to do, and that is compete with titans for a reasonable price.
Honda’s Acura division has always provided affordable luxury, so we’d be remiss to not include the TLX in this list. With a comfortable and snug interior, AWD and impressive handling the TLX is a well-rounded choice for someone looking to buy a decent luxury car.
The only aspect it lacks of its other compact luxury brethren is the power necessary to compete. While it does use a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 like the Infiniti does, Acura’s only makes 300 horsepower which puts it closer to the Mercedes’ 250. The Acura is also quite heavy, at near 3,900 pounds. In spite of this it’s an affordable luxury car that performs well, and you can’t beat that Honda reliability.
Just as you would when buying any other car, test drive a lot of them and make sure you’re comfortable with your choice before you pay hard-earned money. Luxury cars are meant to be comfortable and smooth, so keep that in mind as you shop. There are plenty of luxury cars you can buy that are even older as well. Older Mercedes cars for example might not be as reliable as newer ones, but they’d be cheap to buy, so if that’s your fancy be sure to explore those options as well.
Avid Formula 1 fan and motorcyclist, I enjoy chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and long rides to the beach.